NATCHITOCHES – One last time for No. 1.
After six seasons traversing the peaks and valleys of a college football career, Northwestern State receiver Kendrick Price Jr. will take the field for the final time in a Northwestern State uniform Saturday at 12:05 p.m. when the Demons travel to McNeese for the season finale.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Price said. “There’s a lot that comes with it – the positives, the things I’ve learned, the heartbreaks, the things you go through playing a sport in college. It’s a lot to take in. It’s a lot of emotions. It’s going to be a special moment.”
It is a moment Price was not sure would come.
After arriving at Northwestern State in the fall of 2016, Price’s career has taken multiple twists and turns that have put him inside one career top-10 list entering the Demons’ season finale.
“You talk about the ups and downs within a game, his career has had its ups and downs,” fourth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “Again, he’s one of those you look back on and appreciate what he’s done. He’s put himself in position because of hard work and staying the course. There were times it would have been easy for him to walk away when those times were tough. It was good to see him catch the touchdown against Southeastern (this past Saturday), and I look forward to him ending his career the right way.”
A 35-yard scoring grab in Hammond this past weekend was Price’s ninth career touchdown catch, which puts him one behind Randy Liles for ninth in NSU career history.
Price’s journey fraught with injuries and an eye-opening experience in the classroom, which put his on-field career in jeopardy.
Price overcame that self-inflicted setback and emerged as a playmaker who earned the respect of his teammates and coaches, symbolized by the jersey number that has graced his final three seasons within the program.
“I like to think a lot of things in life go hand in hand,” Price said. “How you do something is how you do everything. Growing from a football aspect helped me grow from a personal standpoint, from a classroom standpoint. Learning how to take care of business and applying yourself and all those things that are part of growing up were part of the journey and something I’m blessed to say I overcame.”
Playing alongside third-team All-American Quan Shorts in 2019, Price enjoyed a breakout second half of that season that included a 114-yard performance at Sam Houston, highlighted by a 67-yard touchdown grab that set the tone for NSU’s 31-28 victory.
His breakout game was part of a three-game finishing salvo in which Price caught 14 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns, establishing himself as the next top-flight NSU receiver after Ferguson and Shorts. It also led Ferguson and Shorts to tweet their support of Price being the next Demon receiver to wear the coveted No. 1 jersey.
Before Price could return to the field with the single digit adorning his jersey, another twist befell the Lindale, Texas, product. Price suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that would have cost him the 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately shifted those games to a six-game spring schedule.
Price’s injury came just months after teammates Isaiah Longino and Gavin Landry suffered the same fate, leaving the three to lean on one another and Price to dig back into his memory bank as well.
“I had a roommate, Da’Von Smith, who tore his ACL during spring ball my first year,” Price said. “That was his second time to tear it, so he had an idea of how to recover. I learned a lot from that. With Gavin tearing his and Gino at the same time, that meant more help and advice from guys who had gone through what I was going through. There are a lot of little things you take for granted. You never realize how much it can help talking to someone who just felt the same pain as you. It makes a world of difference. For Gavin and I to be so close and to share that injury was a blessing in disguise.”
Price and Landry came to Northwestern State the same fall and have been mainstays in the Demon receiver room. With one more practice, one more walkthrough and one final game remaining, it is Price’s turn to reflect on his journey.
“You hear the older guys say things like it flies by,” Price said. “One thing I’ve learned from college is the things that sound the most cliché are the truest. That’s why they became clichés. It really does fly buy. I’m one of the oldest guys here, and I was just one of the youngest. It’s how life works. I’m blessed to be in a position to live that out.
“I didn’t come here highly recruited. I was given an opportunity and made the most of it. I put myself in the position I wanted to be in based off not giving up. There are thousands of guys who can identify with that and see themselves in me. Moving forward, there’s more to accomplish, but as long as I’m an inspiration to someone, that makes a difference to me.”
Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services